If you take the time to look at each joint in the body you will notice they alternate between the need for mobility and the need for stability as you move up the chain. For example, the ankle needs to have significant mobility (as it moves in multiple directions) and the knee needs increased stability (primarily a hinge). As you continue up the chain, you notice the hip has more mobility and the lower back requires more stability. The same can be seen when we look at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Maintaining this relationship in our body is crucial for not only sports performance but overall health, and avoiding injury. If you lose mobility or control of a mobile joint, your body will try to gain that mobility from a more stable segment along the chain. Eventually this will lead to injury if the task is performed enough times. Moreover, you will not get as much out of your workouts as you think you are and if your goal is to train for a sport, you could be teaching your body to work in an inefficient way when competing.
The simplest illustration of this is shown in the squat. A big problem with a squat is often depth. If you had trouble getting deep, the first thing the old school gurus did was recommend that you elevate the heels. At that time they may not have understood the difference between mobility and stability as it related to the ankle, but they did know that squatting in work boots allowed you to get depth easier. In simple terms, heeled shoes (work boots in this case) compensated for poor ankle mobility.
By continuing to squat with elevated heels, you have now trained your body to work and be strong in a way that does not translate to everyday movement or most sports. When running jumping and rapidly changing direction, the foot and ankle will need to reach more ranges of motion which it has not been trained to do which makes it and other structures in the chain vulnerable to injury.
This can be avoided by taking the time to add mobility and stability training to your exercise regimen as well as having a therapist identify and assist in improving mobility in dysfunctional segments. This does not only mean stretching muscles!
Joints have smaller muscles that focus on proper joint positioning/control and others that are movers/power generators. They each play a very important role, and one cannot work properly without the other. The more efficient the smaller stabilizers work, the easier you can generate power and mobility with the moving muscles. You will be surprised at how much stronger you can be when you take the time to train the little muscles you don’t see.
Have yourself properly examined by a therapist and speak to a personal trainer to ensure you do not have any underlying limitations and compensation patterns. Adding the right exercises to your existing workout plan can not only avoid potential injury but also increase your performance significantly.
Article by by Dr. Brandon Martinuzzi, Chiropractor